Today is a different kind of post for the #BeTheRippleBlogs series, it isn’t a guest post, it is a post written by me, Joanna Suvarna, the Founder of the ‘Be The Ripple’ movement.
I want to tell you a story of what kindness really is:
In November 2019 I left a job role, I really needed to take some time out to refresh and reset before considering looking for a new challenge. I needed to get back to being fully energised and fully me. Little did I know at the time, but getting back to being me would take much longer than I’d anticipated as just two days after I left my role, my beautiful Auntie Carol passed away. She was only 58 years old.
Today, July 3rd, she would have celebrated her 59th birthday.
This photograph was taken just 6 months before she passed away.
Carol was one of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone, literally not EVER. When I was young she lived with me, my mum, dad and sister for a while. I was very young so I don’t really remember it, but with just a 13 year age gap, I guess it must have been like she was another big sister to me. How lucky I was and how I wish I had those memories to call on now.
Carol was very much a person who had the mindset of ‘live and let live’, that ethos taught me so much about being a good person, about being non-judgemental and of trying not to engage in unkind acts. She was kind, caring, had a sparkle in her eye and a mischievous sense of humour, she helped shape me into the person that I am today and to the person that I aspire to be in the future.
Losing Carol was one of the worst experiences of my life, on occasion it still overwhelms me with feelings of grief. Sometimes our most painful moments bring us the most clarity, showing us light through the darkness and leading us to a path that only our destiny knew we were going to take. The light had shown me that I needed to take some sort of action to bring about change in the world, to make workplaces and wider society kinder and more caring, to work towards creating a better world and to carry on the legacy of kindness that Carol had displayed during her life.
You may, or may not have, read a post that I wrote for Gary Cookson’s #NotTheAdventBlogs series back in April (if not, and if you're interested, you can find it: Here ) In the blog I wrote about some of the darkest times in my life and how these have made me truly understand the importance of us not only rising up for ourselves, but also of rising up for others: in workplaces and in wider society - something which is on the agenda much more widely in recent weeks than it was back then. I also wrote about the importance of us working together as communities, bringing more kindness into our lives and of my hope that ‘care’ and ‘kindness’ might become key values that drive our collective actions, both in organisations and in general.
A second blog post came about because of an act of kindness from Perry Timms. He showed me some kindness and allowed me to take over his blog for a post. This led me to write a piece on unkindness in workplaces: Here - a piece that would, ultimately, be the catalyst for the #BeTheRipple movement to be born.
Current situations in many organisations, and around the world, are the collective darkness and the #BeTheRipple movement aims to light up the path for us all, bringing more kindness into our workplaces. We aim to demonstrate that there is a kinder way of working, to share stories and amplify voices so that impact can be more deeply understood. We want to encourage workplaces to join us so that we can collectively rise up and identify positive practices that work and share ideas, resources and strategies that can overcome unkindness in our working world - making workplaces better for us all.
We do not need any more darkness to show us that we need to bring about change and bring more kindness into our working world and into wider society. Change is already way overdue.
Current circumstances around the globe have given us a deeper understanding of what kindness really is, the poem below (which was sent to me by someone very kind recently) explores this:
Before You Know What Kindness Really Is
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
--Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words
Only kindness makes sense to me anymore.
Happy Birthday to Carol, her legacy of 'what kindness really is' will live on forever.
You can find PDFs of all blog pieces: